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On The Ropes, Republicans Attack

Negative campaign ads and tactics permeate House races across upstate New York. Here’s a look at three races where biting attacks are the norm.

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“It’s disappointing that John Faso and others have decided to focus on distractions by spreading fear, hatred and division,” Delgado said in response to these attacks. Many, including the New York Times editorial board, accused Faso of “race-baiting,” arguing that his attacks and those of Benjamin were attempts to alienate NY19’s overwhelmingly white, rural electorate from a black candidate by invoking cultural divisions.

One faith leader in the district alleged that the attacks were “code for saying to voters who don’t come from diverse communities that someone who’s of color could not represent them.” Faso defended himself in a letter to the Times before finally dropping the attack altogether. While many voters have reflected indifference toward the lyrics themselves, it seems that Faso’s attacks may have backfired, electorally speaking. Only time–and polls–will say for sure.

NY21: North Country for Old Men

New York’s 21st District is in North Country and includes most of the Adirondack mountain range. - US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
  • US Geological Survey
  • New York’s 21st District is in North Country and includes most of the Adirondack mountain range.

The largest of New York’s congressional districts, the 21st picks up where the 19th left off up north, covering everything from Saratoga Springs up to the Canadian border and encompassing most of the Adirondacks. It’s there, in New York’s northernmost pocket of land, that the youngest female member of Congress was elected in the 2014 Republican wave. She was 30, and campaigned on “fresh ideas.” Elise Stefanik, a Harvard grad and staffer for the Bush administration, has since become a key player among House Republicans.

In addition to being elected as freshman representative to the policy committee, Stefanik has served as the chair of the “Tuesday Group,” a caucus of moderate Republicans, and head of recruitment for the National Republican Campaign Committee. It’s been a meteoric rise, accompanied by a sterling reputation as a fresh new face and source of youthful energy for Congressional Republicans, as well as a landslide reelection in 2016. But this year is different.

This year, Stefanik faces a real threat to her incumbency in Tedra Cobb. Cobb is a county legislator from Saint Lawrence County, one of the more populous and liberal counties in the district. She got that job, perhaps ominously for Stefanik, by “beating a powerful incumbent,” according to her website.

Despite being the safest of the three incumbents, Elise Stefanik still has a real race on her hands. - ELISE STEFANIK FOR CONGRESS
  • Elise Stefanik for Congress
  • Despite being the safest of the three incumbents, Elise Stefanik still has a real race on her hands.

Cobb further demonstrated her electoral potency when, in the Democratic primary in June, she dispatched her five opponents with ease, winning an impressive 56% of the vote. For contrast, Delgado, who faced a similarly large 7-way primary, won with just 22% of the vote, 3% more than his closest opponent. Cobb’s margin made all the more impressive by the fact that she faced a very high profile opponent in former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan. Cobb, it seems, will prove troublesome for Stefanik’s reelection prospects in what is shaping up to be a Democratic wave year.

Following Cobb’s primary victory, Stefanik’s campaign, in Faso-esque form, released a statement giving Cobb a pat on the back and a punch in the gut. “Tonight we congratulate Tedra Cobb on winning the Democratic primary and welcome her to the general election,” it began,”our opponent emerges from a weak, divisive Democratic primary as the out of touch, liberal, hyper-partisan, tax-and-spend candidate of the general election.” Soon after, Stefanik’s campaign put out not only an ad, but a website labelling Cobb “Taxin’ Tedra,” to highlight her “tax-and-spend, liberal voting record” as a county legislator.

Then came the assault rifle comment.

Tedra Cobb proved her grit by defeating a large primary field by a wide margin in June. - TEDRA COBB FOR CONGRESS
  • Tedra Cobb for Congress
  • Tedra Cobb proved her grit by defeating a large primary field by a wide margin in June.

In July, Cobb was caught on a secretly recorded video saying she thought assault rifles “should be banned,” but that she “cannot say that in public” because it would cost her the election. Stefanik’s campaign quickly jumped on the comment, with her spokesman tweeting, “⁦@TedraCobb⁩ now officially the worst Democratic House candidate of the cycle. Admitted raising taxes, now caught on camera violating her pledge to be honest with #NY21 voters,” referring to a pledge Cobb made not to lie during the campaign. Later, the Stefanik campaign put out an ad attacking the comment and somewhat misleadingly alleging that Cobb “supported banning guns.”

Despite the blow to Cobb for this comment, the development may have ended up serving as something of a scandal for Stefanik as well. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the person filming Cobb’s controversial comments was, in fact, a Stefanik campaign intern. It was also revealed that he had used a fake name and lied about his phone being dead in order to record the speech.

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